5 Things I Want to Teach My Kids
Lessons Beyond "Please" and "Thank You"
Parenting is tough. I'm always worrying, praying and hoping that I'm doing a good job and that I'm teaching my kids the things they will need to know to grow into kind, thoughtful, responsible adults who celebrate and appreciate life every day. But what exactly is it I want them to know to accomplish that goal? Some days it seem like all I do is remind, reprimand, and refuse ("No, you can't do that" is a common refrain at our home.) So I decided to sit down and write some things I'd like my kids to know about life. It's not a complete list, and not nearly as poetically profound as I'd like it to be, but, hey, it was a good excuse to create another article on Squidoo and post some pics of my kids.
I recently discovered "The Mom Song" on YouTube. Nine million people viewed this hilarious video featuring comedienne Anita Renfroe before my own mom introduced me to it, so I guess I'm behind the times. (If you're also out of touch, I've included it for your amusement below.)
I'm sure every mom who has seen this song, which attempts to condense everything a mom says in 24 hours to just under three minutes, can relate to the rapid-fire recitation of Mom-isms. It's funny to watch, and, oh, so true! There are days when parenting seems just like this song - a chaotic, frantic race through the day, constantly guiding, teaching, reprimanding and pleading with my children in an effort to get them to behave, to listen, to do what I want them to do - which usually involves at least one admonition a day to my eight-year-old son not to pick on his two-and-a-half-year-old sister. Ah, siblings!
Some days I feel like my entire day has been spent saying "Don't do this" and "Stop doing that." When my son tears things apart to see what makes them work, I try to remind myself that he's expressing his natural creativity and curiosity. And when my daughter throws unknown objects into the toilet, leading to an expensive call to Roto-Rooter, I try to remind myself that water swirling in the toilet is fascinating to a two-year-old and watching things go down is fun. I take a deep breath, and try not to yell. Other times, the deep breath doesn't work, and I yell anyway. I know it's not the best response, so I'm making a concerted effort to take more deep breaths. Breathe d-e-e-p-l-y. E-x-h-a-l-e.
Then I try to remember what's really important and what I really want to teach my kids about life. I don't think getting them to pick their clothes up off the floor or try one bite of some new food qualify as important life lessons. They're necessary lessons, but not fundamental lessons. It's kind of like school - reading, writing and math are the fundamental lessons. Everything else is just good stuff to know.
Somehow, through all the daily admonitions of "don't do this" and "please do that," I hope to teach my kids the fundamental lessons they'll need to be happy and enjoy life. I hope to prepare them for the ups and down that are inevitable. I hope they'll also pick up their clothes and try new food occasionally, but these are the things I want my kids to know.
1. Happiness is in your control. Good things will happen to you and bad things will happen to you in life, and you can't control this. But you can control your response to life's ups and downs. Whether you feel great joy or mere satisfaction over the good things, and devastating sorrow or manageable grief over the bad things is all up to you. As the old adage goes, there is a silver lining in every cloud, and it's up to you to find it, if you choose. Your life will be much richer and more joyful if you look for it.
2. Keep an open mind and don't judge others. I remember the words of one of my college journalism instructors, who told us to remember that there are at least two sides to every story - and usually more. I think that's great wisdom. Unless you walk in someone else's shoes, you'll never understand all the reasons and motivations in their life. Their experiences are not your own, and they have shaped them differently. It's often helpful to try to understand what motivates people's actions, but it's rarely useful to judge them. Be gentle. Be kind. Be nonjudgmental.
3. Don't hold grudges or regrets. Life is too short to hang on to bad feelings. In the long run, the person who is hurt by this negativity is you. If you make a mistake, say you're sorry (if warranted and possible), forgive yourself and move on. Yesterday is in the past. Live in the present and plan for the future. Don't worry about what happened yesterday because it will only keep you from enjoying today and tomorrow
4. Trust your instincts. Your heart will always guide you in the right direction. Your head may have many reasons why you should or should not do something, but your heart will always know the answer. Trust your heart and things will always turn out well in the long run.
5. Celebrate, appreciate, and give thanks every day. Life is a wonderful, miraculous gift of new experiences. Some experiences might be difficult, and some might be painful, but if you make an effort to look, you will surely find something meaningful in all of them. As Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Trust that the things that don't make sense today will make sense years from now, and that you'll be stronger, wiser and better for having had these experiences. So give thanks now and celebrate each day.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. - Kierkegaard
The Mom Song by Anita Renfroe - Some days, parenting is just like this
The first time I saw this video, I laughed out loud. I immediately watched it again - and laughed out loud again. The third time through, I was still laughing. It's brilliantly funny and makes me think that Anita Renfroe is probably a very normal mom with an extraordinary sense of humor. These are the sorts of things I say to my kids on a daily basis, but somewhere in amidst all these daily reminders, I hope I am teaching my kids some more important lessons about life.
Anita Renfore: Total Momsense DVD
If you think the video above is funny, you can own it along with Renfroe's other "Momisms" on DVD.
Amazon description:She has been described as a triple shot of expresso in a decafe world, but there isn't a latte cup big enough to hold the party that Anita Renfroe brings. Her inventive blend of musical comedy and inspiration leave audience with cheeks that hurt and hearts with humor and hope.
This DVD conatins the hit song Momisms that is taking the nation by storm. It's everything a mom would say in 24 hours and reduced to 2 minutes and 55 seconds and sung to the breakneck pace of the Willaim Tell Overture (think: Lone Ranger).
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten - More wisdom about life
I bought this book when it first came out many, many years ago, and the first essay is still as simply elegant and thoughtful now as it was then.
From Amazon: Fifteen years ago, Robert Fulghum published a simple credo—a credo that became the phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Now, seven million copies later, Fulghum returns to the book that was embraced around the world. He has written a new preface and twenty-five essays, which add even more potency to a common, though no less relevant, piece of wisdom: that the most basic aspects of life bear its most important opportunities.
Here Fulghum engages us with musings on life, death, love, pain, joy, sorrow, and the best chicken-fried steak in the continental U.S.A. The little seed in the Styrofoam cup offers a reminder about our own mortality and the delicate nature of life . . . a spider who catches (and loses) a full-grown woman in its web one fine morning teaches us about surviving catastrophe . . . the love story of Jean-Francois Pilatre and his hot air balloon reminds us to be brave and unafraid to “fly” . . . life lessons hidden in the laundry pile . . . magical qualities found in a box of crayons . . . hide-and-seek vs. sardines—and how these games relate to the nature of God. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is brimming with the very stuff of life and the significance found in the smallest details.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - More simple wisdom about life
This is another book I like because it reminds us to focus on what's important in life. Throughout each day, a lot of things happen, and although some of them may seem monumental at the time, in the long run, the only things that really matter are life, love, friendship, and family.
From Amazon: Got a stress case in your life? Of course you do: "Without question, many of us have mastered the neurotic art of spending much of our lives worrying about a variety of things all at once." Carlson's cheerful book aims to make us stop and smell--if not roses--whatever is sitting in front of our noses. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... offers 100 meditations designed to make you appreciate being alive, keep your emotions (especially anger and dissatisfaction) in proper perspective, and cherish other people as the unique miracles they are. It's an owner's manual of the heart, and if you follow the directions, you will be a happier, more harmonious person. Like Stairmasters, oat bran, and other things that are good for you, the meditations take discipline. Even so, some of the strategies are kind of fun: "Imagine the people in your life as tiny infants and as 100-year-old adults." The trouble is, once you start, it's hard to stop.
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